Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012 - Happy Birthday, Grace!

Our Gracie Girl had many requests for her 3rd birthday party.  She really hoped for:
  • a dinosaur cake
  • Cars napkins
  • Dora plates and cups
  • some kind of dinosaur game
  • some kind of Dora game
  • pizza
And, I have to say, that with all of the changes and transition in her life the last few months, not the least of which has been the absence of her Far while he has been getting Tanzania ready for us, I was just very happy to give her all of the above.  So she had a day full of what she wanted. I didn't harass her to eat and, in fact, she only ate candy and cake and ice cream and a little pizza. I let her watch as many shows as she asked for.  I let her play the iPad for as long as she wanted.  It was her THIRD birthday and every time she said something about being happy, I felt so happy for her.  She had three cousins over for her birthday party today, and it was really fun.  The few tears she shed (it is REALLY hard to share your birthday presents with your little cousin on your birthday!) were quickly forgotten amidst all of her happiness.  The hardest part of today was that Far was not with us, but we talked about him a lot and during her bath Grace said, "I really miss Far," so I know that she was thinking of him.  

I have no idea how much Grace weighs (guessing at 26 lbs) or how tall she is exactly.  I think she LOOKS like a 3 year old, albeit a petite one.  She is stubborn, which can be challenging for the adults in her life, but can also be endearing.  She is really into some American cartoon shows right now about words and spelling and vocabulary (Super Why and Word Girl and Dinosaur Train, for those American parents out there).  She can now draw a person that looks like a person and a letter M that looks like a letter M (most of the time).  She has a brilliant imagination and in these few months of transition, it has really been her savior because she has had the company of some wonderful friends to play with, like Dora and Boots and Swiper and Benny and Tico and Isa and some dragons and some dinosaurs!  She does not want to grow her hair long or wear a barrette, but she also refuses for it to be cut.  The big present she wanted for her birthday, which we gave her before Kristoffer left, was a Cars bike with a Dora helmet.  That is the ultimate Grace...she's not REALLY girly...but has a little bit in her still.  She says mature things like, "Mama, we need to figure this out..." or "I need to talk to you about something..." or "Good job, Mama! I am proud of you, " or today this cracked me up, "Noah is too young to drink that," because she is SO old and wise now!

I am eager to get Grace back to a nice daily routine and into a preschool (we leave for Tanzania in 5 days and she is enrolled to start as soon as her jet-lag ends!). I am eager for her to have her own space and schedule and life back.  And I hope she knows that despite all of the crazy changes in our lives lately, as far as we are concerned the sun still rises and sets with her, and always will.  I hope she had a wonderful birthday...I am a proud and lucky and blessed Mama for sure.

Here are some birthday highlights...

First of all...riding her birthday bike a couple of weeks ago after she got it.  She LOVES it and we were impressed with how quickly she could do it so well!

Big girl asleep last night...just before midnight and her third birthday.  I am that crazy stalker mom taking pictures of my daughter in her sleep.  Yes I am. 
Of her many gifts, her Dora shirt that says "Ready for a World Tour", seems most appropriate for the week ahead of us.
When Grace saw her dinosaur cake (which should get it's own blog, really) she said, "Thank you, Mama! I love it!" and gave me a big hug.  It was a labor of love (that my own mother helped me with) that took many hours and lots of concentration.  But I did make it and it made her happy all day long - so it was totally worth it!

Grace spent some time playing with her brother today.
 And reading the new books that Farmor sent her.
 She sang several songs throughout the day (including "Happy Birthday to Me!")...
...and was very excited when Nora, Sean, Molly & Auntie Meghan brought her a guitar to play with!
Then came our birthday party games.

First there was a "dinosaur egg" hunt.  I think this was the biggest hit of all the things we did.  She was really bummed when all the dinosaur eggs were found!

 Then we played "Pin the Tail on Swiper"...
 ...and had toy car races.

Next came an old-time favorite of Grace's...playing the invented game of "racquet balloon" (I think you'll find the rules of the game self-explanatory):
We followed up the games with a movie and the girls were all cuddly in Nene's bed!

Finally, it was time to EAT.

First pizza!

 Then, dinosaur cake and ice cream!

We ended the day with a dance party and after her cousins went home, Grace closed down the house with a little concert on her new guitar.

You only turn three once and she did it in style.  Happy birthday to our Super Gracie Girl!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 22, 2012 - Gratitude Journal

I have seen other people do "gratitude journals" on their blogs and have always liked the idea. The impetus to start one here is three-fold: 

1. We have been in transition for over 3 months now, and I have just been a horrible blogger. This makes me sad because I really enjoy blogging. I hope keeping this journal will help my blogging become part of my daily routine once again. And I hope that our Internet in Dar will cooperate once we get there. 

2. I often feel - particularly during transition and also in anticipation of moving to a lesser developed country - that I focus a little too much on the negative or difficult aspects of daily life, instead of being grateful for all of the wonderful things. I hope this journal will help me remember and appreciate the good stuff. 

3. It is Lent and I am once again faced with the notion of "giving up" something, which I have never been a fan of. I understand the purpose of making a sacrifice during Lent and I very much support people trying to get closer to Jesus that way, but I also have not found that giving up something like chocolate, for example, has ever helped me appreciate Jesus' sacrifice in a more meaningful way or has even had any kind of long-term impact on my life. So, instead I try to "do something extra" instead of giving something up. Usually, I do this privately but this year I am starting my gratitude journal online for Lent and hope that by naming or describing something I am grateful for each day, I will honor the spirit of the Lenten season and keep my gratitude alive even beyond Lent. 

Please check out the new "page" on this blog (the fourth tab at the top) to read my new Gratitude Journal!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 14, 2012 - Sibling Valentines

Grace and Noah are a serious duo-in-the-making.  Noah adores her.  Everything about her.  He walks to her in an all-out attack to give her a big hug (especially in the evening before bed) and doesn't even mind when she totally freaks out and runs away, dragging him behind her.  He is a sidekick to her superhero, although in time we'll see if those roles remain or reverse!  Grace loves Noah most of the time - except when he steals her cup (one of his favorite things to do) or goes in for one of his hug-attacks - and she tells him so often. She is always thinking about him and what he's doing.  She talks to him and bosses him around; sometime she mimics me so accurately in an attempt to parent him that she is also a mini-mother!  She is usually very sweet to her brother.

On Valentine's Day it is easy to remember romantic love, but today I choose to highlight pure, innocent sibling love [maybe because my romantic love is across the ocean in Tanzania right now - more on that later].  One of the cutest things this duo likes to do is "muscle" (we call it that, anyway) - or wrestle around on a bed or the floor.  Noah is a particular fan of rough-housing with his sister.  As you can see.

Thank you to Kristoffer for the beautiful flowers he sent and some delicious Godiva that he hid for me to find today.  An even bigger thank you, though, for these two crazy kids...who are a testament of love on Valentine's day, and every day.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2, 2012 - Top Ten List (!)

Top Ten Things You Can Find in Tanzania

10.  Malaria (and various other tropical diseases)

9.  Tanzanite, the precious gemstone found exclusively here

8.  Proper Kishwahili (as opposed to the slang-ish Kenyan version)

7.  Around 130 ethnic groups and languages

6.  Dar es Salaam, one of the world's largest natural harbors

5. Zanzibar, a famous island getaway

4. Ngorongoro Crater, the largest complete crater in the world

3. The Serengeti National Park, considered to be the best wildlife reserve in all of Africa

2. Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa

and the #1 thing you can find in of February/March 2012...

The Welsien Family

Congratulations to Kristoffer on [finally] officially accepting a position with The World Bank in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where we will be living for the next 2-3 years.  Kristoffer will begin working in about 10 days and the rest of us will join him once he finds us a great house (fingers crossed!) and gets all of our stuff from Nairobi.  In Kristoffer's gig as Country Officer for the World Bank, he hopes to work with the new Country Director in Tanzania to secure and implement positive, sustainable development solutions in the country.  It has been a 9 month+ process from applying for the job in April to signing the paperwork today, and we are very relieved.

We are excited for some new perks of living in Dar, such as greater security and being right on the beach.  We are also interested to see how we handle some new challenges, such as insane heat and rampant malaria.  Rose, our beloved housekeeper/nanny from Nairobi, will continue working for our family in Dar and we are so thrilled that she'll be with us to assist our transition.  Particularly for Grace and Noah, it will be great to have her around for some added consistency in their daily lives.  

Making our second logistical move will be easier in many ways than our first time around because we know so, so, so much more than we knew in 2007.  But in some ways it was easier last time because it was just the two of us carrying a lot less precious cargo than we have now.  

We hope you'll keep reading to learn along with us as we begin our new Life in Dar.